City Life – Nighttime Darkness, Around Town
Let there be darkness
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Never noisy here, not even in the day. It is one of the more serene neighbouhoods in the National Capital Region. The silence deepens at night, but alas! The light pollution makes it impossible for us citizens to experience the night’s natural darkness. The intrusive light also hampers our effort to strike a relationship with the celestial sights of the post 7pm sky (which anyways stay hidden behind the city’s air pollution).
Right now it is a few minutes past midnight. The sky over the neighbourhood is dark shade of grey, and the surrounding lamps are shedding their diffused glow about the smoggy air. The artificial lighting is severely compromising the nocturnal hour’s inborn blackout.
Many of us might raise our brows for resenting the night lighting. Isn’t it worth aspiring for? (Paris, the city of lights!) Delhiiwallas who came of age during the 1990s might recall the frequent power outages that made up the damaging texture of their everyday life. Besides, unlit night streets are friends to law breakers.
Yet, something invigorating lurks about the night’s natural darkness. A furious storm in May last year caused parts of Old Delhi to lose power during the ensuing evening. The crowded streets were drowned in darkness. Some chai shop owners resorted to the long-forgotten wax candles, other shopkeepers turned to their mobile’s torchlight. A rare kind of pleasure was derived from taking a walk that evening on those darkened streets that would be customarily lit up with bulbs and tube lights.
The pleasure is grander on experiencing unadulterated darkness. Such a thing exists right in the heart of the city—over the Yamuna. As youdrive at midnight from Sarai Kale Khan towards Noida Mor, and nears the great river that divides our city geographically (and sociologically), the omnipresent city lights on the left side of the car window abruptly vanish into darkness. The transition is dramatic, equivalent of taking a dive into some black hole. Park your car by the mouth of the bridge, and walk towards the handrails to gaze at this soothing nothingness. The eyes sense the course of the river, its water, the fields flanking the either bank, but all these are discerned through the gradations of their darkness. This is Delhi’s most surreal night-time spectacle, and most ironic. Cloaked about our polluted river, the darkness itself is free of pollutants, shining bright in its blackness.